Shabazz Napier did not look sharp in his professional debut during the NBA summer league. The former UConn star, who led his team to an improbable national championship back in April, shot 28-for-102 from the field and turned the ball over 38 times. Napier had eight turnovers in his first summer league game, which is more than he had during any single game in his 143-game collegiate career.
While nerves may have played a role in Napier’s shaky play, he said the biggest issue he is having is a physical one — he can’t get used to playing with a different basketball.
“I just want to continue to get better at everything,” Napier told Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “But my biggest thing is getting comfortable with that basketball. That’s one of my biggest problems and it’s kind of ironic, because it’s a basketball. But it’s different than a college basketball.”
Napier, who used a Nike ball at UConn, said he never wanted to touch an NBA ball for the same reason some guys won’t lay a finger on a championship trophy until they have earned it.
“The funny thing is, I never really touched an NBA ball until I left school,” he said. “I told myself I never wanted to. I felt like it was superstitious, like something bad was going to happen, like I had to earn it. I never touched it and it’s definitely different. This ball is leather and the biggest thing for me now is getting comfortable with it.”
That excuse will only fly for so long, as I’m sure Napier knows. In addition to adjusting to the NBA ball, Napier is likely going to have some issues with shot selection. He was the clear-cut leader of the Huskies and had plenty of hot and cold streaks. While Napier was incredibly clutch, some of the shots he took were downright ridiculous. That won’t fly at the NBA level, no matter what the balls are made out of.